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Senate productivity unhampered by COVID-19, says Zubiri

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri expressed confidence Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic failed to alter the productivity of the Senate in the first regular session of the 18th Congress.

"COVID has really changed the way we work, but I think we’ve managed it well," Zubiri, who won his own bouts with the virus, said a day after the session adjourned sine die.

He added the Senate found ways to continue working through "hybrid" sessions and hearings by proactively amending its house rules in May.

"It’s not been without problems. Sometimes connection can get bad and disrupt the flow of the session. And we’ve had to figure out and get used to entirely new ways to hold caucuses, to file bills, to arrange committee hearings," Zubiri said.

"But on the whole, I’d like to point to our performance reports as proof that the Senate’s shift to a new normal has been pretty successful," he added.

He said the lawmakers burned the midnight oil to pass the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act in March to allow efficient COVID-19 response, and was even able to pass a second Bayanihan bill on second reading before the sine die adjournment.

The proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, however, was not tackled on third reading due to lack of certification as urgent from the Palace.

Zubiri reiterated Senate President Vicente Sotto's report that eight bills were signed into law since the first regular session began on July 22, 2019.

He vowed that the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), which is the revised version of Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act, would be prioritized upon the resumption of session in July.

"There wasn’t enough time to deliberate and pass CREATE before sine die, but this is a very urgent measure that our people will need to rebuild their lives and livelihoods after COVID-19. Especially our MSME sector—owners and employees alike," he said.—AOL, GMA News